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On Practice

Krista Moyer

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Published: January 22, 2015 at 11:20 PM [UTC]

Playing the violin is a little weird. Because what you are doing is showing a piece of yourself to the world, it gets wrapped up in this messy little ball of emotionally charged angst. It’s like being a hormonal teenager without the zits. One moment you love that wooden box; and the next you want to set it on fire just to watch it burn.

There’s one thing that always makes things better. It’s painful, and humbling, but it always works.

Practice Better

I didn’t say practice harder, or longer. I said better for a reason. It never fails, but when I start feeling the most frustrated it’s because I’m mindlessly playing through my pieces without focusing on the details. It’s a lot more immediately satisfying to play something all the way through. Then we can say we “finished” practicing and feel accomplished when all we managed to do was reinforce what we’ve been doing all along.

It’s not fun to tear a piece apart and practice the same three measures (or three notes) over and over until our fingers can’t do it wrong any more. It really stinks. I hate doing it, but it works. When I take the time to identify what is going wrong and work on it until it’s right, suddenly everything else just gets better.

For some reason, one wrong thing can set up a cascading chain of wrong things. Can’t vibrato on that one piece? Maybe it’s because your brain is busy chanting “Oh crap, that string of 16th notes is going to suck!”. And guess what, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. You were so distracted that not only did the 16th note arpeggio totally fall apart, but you couldn’t vibrate either, and just to make the party fun, your bow started bouncing too. Yay! All that training and it just comes down to whether or not you use your energy wisely.

Also posted to my Wordpress.

Posted on January 24, 2015 at 11:51 PM
Agreed! I love that I get more out of what can sometimes seem like doing less: just focusing on one little spot rather than trying to get through a piece or a movement. Sure it can take a mentally to do that fine detail work properly. When I'm absolutely exhausted I'm also more likely to pick up the violin to practice if I decide that I'm just going to work on my problem spots.
From Krista Moyer
Posted on January 25, 2015 at 11:29 PM
That's a good point. Sometimes it is easier just to work on the problem areas, especially when motivation is slim or you don't have much time. If you can't fix it all, at least you can fix that one bit and that's an accomplishment.
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on January 26, 2015 at 2:16 PM
I agree completely with the general gist of this blog, but sometimes I think it can be taken too far.

I can find myself in the situation of knowing parts of a piece very well, because that's how I practiced it--going immediately to the trouble spots and working those. But I don't have a good sense of how to put it all together, And, I find out when I finally play the whole thing through at the dress rehearsal, that man, is this piece long, and by the end I am TIRED and my back hurts.

So ideally I think it's a balance of playing through to get the big picture and build endurance, and working the trouble spots.

Not always easy to find the right balance, especially if you have limited time.

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